In this issue: Public health welcomes end of alcohol tax freeze; Asian flush linked to cancer; Ads create harmful online environments
Public health welcomes end of alcohol tax freeze
Public health advocates this week welcomed a UK Budget heeding its call for alcohol duty to rise at least in line with inflation, as well as a move intended to lower pub prices relative to retail.
It could have gone further still, public health representatives said, including by closing the loophole responsible for ultra-cheap cider. Pubs themselves argued that more effective support would come by helping with their energy costs, VAT and business rates. It remains to be seen how much of the duty fall reaches pump prices. Big alcohol interests expressed their unhappiness, but saw their share prices rise.
The government estimated that it had given away £405m to the alcohol industry by freezing duty in December (see table below). The lower tax rate for pubs announced in this budget will cost £80m a year, the same estimates say, just over a twentieth of the £1.3bn annualised loss of public income forecast had it kept the blanket duty freeze.
The inflationary linkages of duty may be the new normal, with Chancellor Jeremy Hunt saying it was done “in the usual way” though it is a rarity in recent years. News of the special rate for pubs was leaked via the Bloomberg news service, which hosted Hunt at an event on budget day evening also attended by owner Michael Bloomberg, a proponent of heath taxes.
Press materials released by the Treasury also quoted Michael Bloomberg giving a glowing assessment of the UK’s economic prospects.
East Asian people with a low tolerance to alcohol, commonly known as “Asian flush”, have an increased chance of developing a hard-to-cure type of stomach cancer if they drink alcohol, according to a study in Nature Genetics.
Alcohol companies are creating online environments for harm, according to a new report which found nearly 40,000 alcohol ads are placed on Facebook and Instagram each year in Australia. They are often come with a button saying ‘shop now’.
Break-ins were down 45%, domestic violence was down 30% and youth disturbances were down 36%, said a leaked police briefing a month after the reintroduction of alcohol restrictions in parts of Northern Territory. Others doubt the figures.